Why “If Just One Person…” Reasoning is False & Dangerous

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Originally posted December 16, 2011

There is a growing trend among many churches to apply a false formula in many aspects of the budgeting process. I call it the “If Just One Person” false logic.

If you’ve found yourself falling into this trend you need to:

  • Be aware of the trend,
  • Recognize why the logic is faulty,
  • Know how to respond.

dollar tree

1.   Be aware of the trend
This trend typically unfolds in this manner. During the budgeting process someone will notice an unusually large dollar figure attached to a new or unproven outreach initiative.

The defender of the line item will then apply this logic. “Hey, if even one person makes a decision for Christ, then every penny will have been worth it!”

While I’m using outreach as an example, the same reasoning pops up in other budget discussions too, such as:

  • If just one person takes a big step towards God…
  • If just one person starts reading the Bible regularly…
  • If just one person invites someone far from God into their home…

2.   Recognize why the logic is faulty
In reality there is a dangerous false economy at work here. Suppose, for example, the outreach line item is for $20,000 and it is being justified on the “If Just One Person” logic. But could there have been a far more effective outreach initiative which, for that same $20,000, could have seen 10 people come to Christ? Or 20? Or 100?

3.   Know how to respond
When this logic is raised in your budgeting circles the key is to match the sincere value with a discussion of equally valid competing values such as the stewardship value and the wisdom value.

Have the courage to point out that even in an abundance economy (recognizing that God does indeed “own the cattle on a thousand hills”), there is still a leadership responsibility at play which requires a maximum return on each Kingdom dollar.

Why is this a big deal?

As a church leader you have a responsibility to ensure that each dollar is being applied for maximum Kingdom impact.

So be on the lookout for the “If Just One Person” false logic. If you speak into it in a timely, gracious but clear manner the Kingdom win can be huge.

How do you respond to the “If Just One Person” logic?

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

5 comments

  1. That’s one of the three excuses for failure in developing mission strategies. The other two are, “It’s really a great opportunity,” when something that is clearly outside of the core mission is presented in an attractive (read seductive) way; and “Well, someone had to try to do something about it,” when the passion for identifying the right resources for success is not as deep as the passion for the work that needs to be done.

  2. I believe we fail to see a larger picture here. While it may be true that for $20,000.00 we may have only seen one person make a decision for Christ, how many people were effected by our outreach? The coming to Christ is the action of the Holy Spirit and not man.
    It is all about time and timing. It may not be the season for 10, 20 or 100 people to come but to know that we have done our part which is planting should suffice. I for one rejoice over one fruit that may show itself knowing that there is more to come in time. It may not happen when I expect it but I do expect it to happen.

  3. The fear of the “dangerous false economy” of Point 2 might, however, lead to Christian resources going to where we “know” there will always be a “good return” of baptisms, while neglecting regions and people groups that are not as “responsive.” This can lead to perhaps a larger missiological mistake of looking for “the most bang for our mission buck.”

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